Category Archives: Political commentary

Avoiding Terrorism

[Now published on Independent Australia]

The tragic loss of innocent lives to terrorist acts will not stop until we admit to the folly of current policies.

Lost amid the genuine anguish, the outrage, the media frenzy, and the political posturing after each terrorist event in the West is a simple question: “Why are they so angry, these terrorists?” You don’t really have to look far for an answer.

Western powers have been meddling in the Middle East for a very long time. A few examples will suffice. In 1953 Britain and the US conspired to overthrow democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh and replace him with a tyrant – the Shah of Iran. Mossadegh wanted to nationalise a European oil company and reap the profits for Iran. It was Iran’s oil, after all. The Shah was more obliging, and let the flows of profits and cheap oil to the West continue.

We know how well that ended. The Shah’s iron-fisted repression eventually produced a fundamentalist theocratic revolution and a regime since labelled as one of the “axis of evil”.

Saudi Arabia is well-known to be the source of Wahhabism, the fundamentalist Islamic sect that promotes the Sharia law so loathed and dreaded by the likes of Pauline Hanson. Yet Saudi Arabia is an ally of the US and, perforce, of Australia. How come? Well, Saudi Arabia sits on the world’s biggest pool of oil.

Saudi Arabia has also given the world Osama bin Laden and most of the terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. Saudi Arabia is widely reputed to be the major source of funds supporting Middle Eastern terrorists. So why is Saudi Arabia an ally?

The 2003 invasion of Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster. A recent estimate is that 300,000 Iraqis have died in the aftermath. Many of those would be innocent civilians. Iraq quickly descended into civil war and anarchy (as widely predicted), the conflict spread into neighbouring Syria, and Islamic State, or ISIS, spread out of Syria. The conflict has been the major recruiting incentive to Islamic extremism and terrorism. Assessments to that effect even by our own intellingence agencies are occasionally leaked.

The invasion of Iraq was illegal, and based on a transparently false allegation that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. It was inflicted by Western governments in the face of clear opposition from their citizens, voiced through polls and the biggest street demonstrations since the Vietnam War era. Even in the US only 50% of the people supported it. It was principally driven by US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, with our own Prime Minister Howard enthusiastically yapping along behind.

The US regularly conducts remote drone assassinations around the world. They were presided over for eight years by the saintly Barack Obama. These regularly kill innocent people, along with the alleged enemy target. That is, if the intelligence supposedly identifying the target is even reliable. Can you argue that death falling unpredictably from the sky is not terrorism?

There are many more terrorist attacks and innocent casualties in the Middle East itself than in Western countries, though only the latter attract a Western media frenzy.

The collapse of Syria into anarchy, which is the source of recent tides of refugees into Europe, was precipitated by a combination of the war in neighbouring Iraq and a prolonged and severe drought, plausibly aggravated by global warming. The latter of course is due to burning fossil fuels, including Middle Eastern oil.

Middle Eastern terrorism has been generated or severely aggravated by a century or more of political interference by Western powers for reasons of empire and oil. The oil has been used for the maintenance of Western military and industrial superiority. Even so, it could simply have been purchased for a fair market price.

The dark irony is that burning all that oil will bring down the Western industrial system anyway, along with much else, through global warming.

So why are these young terrorists so angry? Is it really so hard to figure out?

The currently escalating cycle of outrage and counter-attack is destroying their countries and our once-open, liberal democracies, as more and more draconian police-state measures are imposed on us in a futile quest for security.

Western blundering around in the Middle East has been profoundly counter-productive. Worse, many Western actions verge into tolerance of or active collusion in terrorism.

The remedy is obvious: withdraw from the Middle East.

We manage to ignore or tolerate plenty of other tyrannical regimes around the world, so the likely continuation of outrages within the Middle East is not a reason for us to stay on. The sooner we get out the sooner they are likely to begin the slow process of settling into less lethal arrangements.

Ieshia Evans, vulnerable and courageous

New eBook: The Rise and Failure of the Radical Right

The Origins of Australia’s Political Disarray

The right-wing ideology of the past 40 years has failed. It was always going to fail, because it is based on nonsense ideas, and because it harms people and the natural world. Australian politics has been dragged far to the right since 1980 because both major parties embraced an agenda promoted by right-wing radicals. Now the radical right’s grip on power is finally slipping. We are poised for a major political re-alignment.

A BetterNature Short Book (14,500 words).

Released 4 May 2017. May the Fourth be with you.

Now available on Amazon.

See more about my books, existing and forthcoming, here.

Desperately Seeking the Fair Go – blog post

[This post introduces my new book. Full text now available as pdf or epub.]

desperatelysmAustralia accomplished an economic miracle in the nineteenth century, rising from subsistence to the richest country in the world. Along with New Zealand, Australia also led the world in political and social innovation, aspiring to provide a fair go for everyone. By 1913 Australia was a distinctive, dynamic and increasingly egalitarian society.

Despite some economic, political and psychological setbacks through the twentieth century, Australia by 1980 was a prosperous and open society still generally pursuing the fair go, notwithstanding some notable gaps.

Australians also had another great accomplishment to our credit: we had peaceably welcomed a great diversity of immigrants who spiced Oz with many new cultural flavours. We grumbled a bit and might not have openly admitted it, but we were a tolerant, talented, innovative, even interesting lot.

Today Australia is a very different place. We are in a lather of fear over moderate challenges that are substantially of our own making. We shrink from big challenges bearing down on us. We are insecure, and increasingly selfish, divided and directionless. We pursue scapegoats, vilifying innocent people and grossly abusing some. We act as though we are incapable, and have to bring in foreigners and their money to run things for us.

Yet we can still be generous and tolerant, and we can still sometimes be the fun-loving larrikins we like to think we are. We have abundant resources, talent, skill and energy, and we speak many of the world’s languages. Why do we make such heavy going of it?

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Brexit, Trump and a Rigged System

Economist Ian McAuley has written a series of articles called Brexit, Trump and the Lucky Countryon John Menadue’s site Pearls and Irritations. The analysis is good as far as it goes, but there are more fundamental factors at work.

The neoliberal program never achieved more than mediocrity and overall it has failed even on its own terms. Worse, it has corrupted government, fractured society and visited destruction upon the Earth. This failure flows from two false premises at the heart of neoliberalism: the libertarian claim that people should be rugged individualists, and the neoclassical claim that free markets usually will automatically optimise an economy.

Behind the votes for Brexit and Trump lies a simple perception: the system is rigged in favour of the rich. That perception is accurate. People may lash out at scapegoats and follow false prophets, but their disgust and alienation are quite justified. Trump promised to break up the cozy club at the top, and many people said Yes.

Two extracts published at Pearls and Irritations, here and here.

Full essay here.

Trump Refracted Through Nineteen Eighty-Four

george-orwell-1

[Published at Independent Australia]

I’m not the only one having thoughts of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. My own reminder came through Donald Trump’s flirtation with Russia. Suddenly Russia switches from being the Evil Empire to being a useful ally. And when Trump feels his grip on power might be slipping he’ll pick a fight to distract us. Who will he pick a fight with? Obviously China.

We are in Orwell’s world. There are three superpowers: Oceania, Eurasia, Eastasia. We are at war with Eurasia and Eastasia is our ally. No, we are at war with Eastasia and Eurasia is our ally. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

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Secret Takeover by Subversive Extremists: a Conspiracy Story

[Also just published at Independent Australia.]

thatcher_tinaBack in the 1960s authorities were very exercised that cells of violent hippie peacenik leftists were plotting to overthrow the Government and establish an anarchist hippie socialist dictatorship (there were no greenies yet). This would inevitably morph into communism, the dreaded embodiment of all evil.

The conspirators were a very small fringe of a very large but not very coherent movement that wanted more love, less war, less consumerism and healthier living. Oh, and some drugs and weird clothes, or no clothes. There was the odd kidnapping and a few small bombs let off, some of them doing more harm to the conspirators than to the Establishment, but the large anti-war movements did not automatically join the revolution and the whole thing fizzled. The hippies got mortgages, Ronald Reagan was elected, and Big Business resumed gobbling up the world.

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The Greens: Paddling Hard but Missing the Wave

[Just published at Independent Australia]

article-9388-heroDisaffection with old parties and old politics continues to grow, here and abroad. Unlike the US and the UK, however, progressive politics in Australia is hardly progressing. The Greens are the obvious standard-bearer, but so far they are missing the wave. It matters because the destruction of the informed, fair-go society and the sell-out of our sovereignty continue apace.

In the recent election the Greens pulled only 10% of the 23% of primary votes that went to non-major parties in the House. For the Senate, they got 8.7% of around 35% of non-major primary votes.

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